A federal government report has concluded there is more than enough evidence proving plastic is harmful.
The federal Liberals promised last June they’d seek to ban a number of products, such as straws, take-out containers and grocery bags. But first, there would have to be a scientific assessment of the problem.
A draft version of that assessment was released Thursday.
It found we tossed out 29-thousand tonnes of plastic garbage in 2016 – the equivalent of 2.3 billion single-use plastic bottles. Much of it ended up as litter in parks, lakes and on beaches.
Some of it was easily visible (macroplastics). Much of it can’t be readily seen; they’re tiny remnants of plastic (microplastics) that have broken apart from larger pieces or have been shed from clothing made of synthetic fabrics, fleece blankets and tires.
The assessment looked at the impact of all types of plastics and points to evidence that macroplastics are hurting wildlife. Dead birds have been found with plastic in their intestines, whales have washed up on shore with stomachs filled with tonnes of plastic they ingested as they swam, including flip-flops and nylon ropes.
In one case, a turtle was found emaciated and dying. When the plastic was removed from its digestive tract, the turtle recovered.
The evidence is less clear about the harmful impacts for people and wildlife of ingesting microplastics, and the scientists recommended further study.
A list of specific items to be banned is still being worked out with scientists. It’s expected plastic bags, straws, bottles and Styrofoam containers – items meant to be used once and discarded – will be on it.
feature image courtesy Flickr